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More snarling among neighbors

More snarling among neighbors

A LONG-STANDING border dispute between Kompong Cham villagers and their

Vietnamese neighbors briefly threatened to flare into violence

recently.

Kompong Cham governor Hun Neng confirmed the incident where

Vietnamese authorities - and armed soldiers - used bulldozers to raze around 100

hectares of farmland and cashew crops.

"Sometimes we almost roll our

shirt sleeves up at one another," Hun Neng told the Post. However, he said that

following meetings between Cambodian and Vietnamese border officials the two

sides "have agreed to the status quo."

The incident occurred on May 22 in

Chan Moul commune of Memot district 86km east of the provincial town, where

Vietnamese soldiers from Post 819 accused the Cambodian farmers of planting

cashews on Vietnamese soil.

Local officials confirmed that the soldiers

fired over the heads of local farming families, as both sides claimed ownership

of the disputed land.

Hun Neng said the Cambodian border soldiers had

been advised not to counter-attack the Vietnamese troops. He said the problem of

land disputes in the area had happened since the Sangkum Reastr Niyum period.

Currently, the problem is a continuing one in seven communes in Memot

district and three communes in Ponhea Krek district, he said. This involves more

than 3,000 hectares of disputed land.

The governor said the Vietnamese

local authority had told the Khmer farmers to write a request to rent plots of

farm land from them, "but we've forbidden our people to do so lest [the

Vietnamese] use this [to later prove ownership]," Hun Neng said.

He said

the two sides had often reach agreement, only for the Vietnamese commune and

village authorities to ignore and continue harassing the Khmer

farmers.

"Now we are wondering whether it is their [the commune's] own

decision or tricks from the top," Hun Neng said.

Deputy Prime Minister

Sar Kheng was quoted by Reaksmei Kampuchea in a meeting with provincial

governors on June 9 as saying that he would organize a delegation to inspect the

disputed land.

Kheng said he had advised the Kompong Cham governor to

report any changes on the land issues to the Ministry of Interior.

Late

last year, Hun Neng sent a report to the co-Prime Ministers that about 870

hectares of land in Memot and Krek districts had been lost to the Vietnamese.

However, some communes had not recorded their land loss, he said.

The

governor said that the Vietnamese could move border signs but not landmarks such

as pagodas, villages and roads. In Svay Rieng province, a Cambodian temple was

on land that was being claimed as Vietnamese territory.

A total of 1200

square km of border land in Takeo, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Kompong Cham and

Kampot provinces is in dispute.

The government last year set up a

committee headed by the co-Prime Ministers to consider border issues.

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